Considering a Change?
How to Prepare for a New Worship Ministry Assignment
A new year naturally turns our focus toward “new beginnings” of all kinds. People are suddenly resolute to lose weight, pray more, cut back spending, and sometimes even make career changes. For those in full-time ministry the holidays are demanding, and once the dust has settled many begin to contemplate whether they want to spend another year in their current context. Generally speaking, I’m all for staying planted in a place as long as possible or until God makes it clear that the season is changing and it’s time to go elsewhere. But there certainly are good reasons to leave a ministry post and walking through that decision-making process is not simple.
I’ve been in ministry for 15 years and grew up in a pastor’s home. In my life my parents made the decision to move for ministry positions twice, and I’ve made the decision for myself and my family twice as well. I’ve had dozens of friends and colleagues engage in the process around me, and more recently I’ve worked to assist churches in finding worship pastors who are a good fit in their context. There’s no bullet-proof way to ensure a perfect match, but there are things you can do to be positioned well when a good opportunity is presented to you.
Remember That All Grass Needs to be Watered
Humans tend to believe that the grass is greener on the other side. Of course, we know that’s not always true, but it can surely feel true when we’re deep in the malaise of a post-Christmas work hangover or we’ve been wrestling with frustration for the better part of a year. What is actually true is that all grass needs to be watered to have a chance at being green. Don’t ignore your feelings! Recognize them, name them, and examine them. What are they telling you? What’s the real reason you’re anxious to leave your current position? Don’t move further down this list – barring a rhema word from God – until you’ve wrestled this to the ground: why do you want to leave? Is it really a church problem, or is there a “you” problem? Are you antsy because you’re bored? Are you frustrated because you have expectations that are unrealistic or that you’ve never voiced? Have you failed to “water your own grass” because your eyes have been elsewhere? If after honest self-evaluation and prayer you determine that your environment needs to change, then begin to actively prepare for a new assignment. But for as long as you’re in any position you should be doing all you can to “water the grass” you’ve been given.
Determine What’s Important
A few people I’ve worked with have had an exhaustive laundry list of requirements for a church. They’re only open to Free Will Baptist churches in Southern Louisiana, with 350-400 members, 3 days a week in the office, amazing pay and benefits, and a pastor who will be their best friend after the first interview. I get it – we want what we want and kudos to those who are that self-aware! But, surprisingly, just as many people say things like, “I don’t care what kind of church it is as long as they love Jesus.” Or “I’m really open to any church.” Really? There aren’t any doctrines or values that would draw or repel you from a church? From Anglican to Pentecostal Holiness they’re all the same to you? Everyone has things that matter deeply to them, but some people don’t do the hard work required to identify them. Save yourself future misery and hours in uncomfortable interviews by learning what you value and discovering what is important to you about where you work and attend church.
Get Yourself Ready
Recently I was working with a young candidate looking for his first full-time worship leading job and, though he led multiple times each week, it took him 4 weeks to get me a video of him leading worship. Post-Covid there’s simply no excuse. Hear me: in 2024, video footage of you leading worship is nearly as important as your resume. Start looking for (or planning to record) the best footage you can find and, if you have the ability, mix it to showcase yourself rather than the out of tune electric player and over-zealous drummer. What’s even better is to make a single compilation video of diverse songs and moments showcasing your ability to lead, not just sing. If you know you’re a weak vocalist, invest in a few vocal lessons (from one of our alumni!). Want to get better at or learn guitar? Reach out to Matt Podesla for lessons. If you’re supremely talented, but don’t have much leadership or ministerial training, consider enrolling in a program that will strengthen you in these areas (10KFAM’s Worship School, perhaps?). Review your social media accounts. They don’t need to be sterilized of your personality, but are they appropriate for the position that you’re seeking? Churches will absolutely search them. And, please, update your resume. Lead pastors assume that most worship leaders are disorganized creatives. Prove them wrong and set yourself apart by being timely and prepared when an opportunity comes your way.
Utilize Relational Networks
A colleague of mine recently said, “the Kingdom of God moves at the speed of relationships.” Generally speaking, this seems to be true. I also believe that the internet has made it possible for us to be inserted into relational networks that 100 years ago wouldn’t have been possible. In your search for a new job, reach out to old friends and see what doors might open. But also don’t be afraid to reach out into greater organized networks of relationships. About two years ago, we recognized that 10KFAM had a growing reach among our alumni and the connections they’ve made with colleagues. Churches had been reaching out to us for help finding worship pastors and we added Placement Services as a part of the organization. Since then, we’ve placed a dozen or so worship pastors who are truly thriving in churches that would have been difficult for them to find apart from a greater relational network. If you’re searching and would like us to help you, reach out to us HERE.
Pay Attention to Your Gut
Many of us have been taught not to “trust your gut” because of misguided teaching that comes from verses like Jeremiah 17:9-10, which says “the heart is the most deceitful of all things.” The truth is that often God leads us through our hearts. Where else might discernment happen? Assuming that you’re praying throughout the process, trust that if you have repeated bad feelings about taking a new assignment that it might be God communicating to you! Humans are complicated and, though we prefer God speak in an audible voice and directly tell us what to do, that doesn’t require nearly as much faith, trust, or maturity as discerning each step forward when things are unclear. Remember, God is more concerned with you growing up into Christlikeness than you making perfect decisions (assuming that’s even possible). If you’re married, pray with your spouse for discernment and wisdom. Trust each other’s gut feelings when you visit a place or are on interview calls. Involve a limited number of trusted wiser folks who can help you discern the decision-making process. But don’t discount God’s guidance within you! God certainly speaks, but not only in clearly spoken words.
I wish there were a way to magically find perfect matches between churches and candidates, but there isn’t. Making a job change in ministry is difficult because your workplace as well as your church family will be changing. Hopefully you will find these steps helpful on your journey to finding a place where you and your family can flourish in ministry for a long time. Trust God and do the work to prepare yourself and your family along the way.
about the author
Jonathan lives in Colorado Springs with his family and serves as the Associate Lead Pastor of New Life Midtown where he previously served as the Worship Pastor for many years. He is also on staff with 10KFAM as a teacher, recruiter, and accountant, having graduated the Worship School in 2022.